A Few Tips for Parents on Graduation Weekend

DISMISSED!!! photo by Stanley Leary

Graduation is a few days away. The weather is looking iffy for Friday, but the forecast changes daily. I’ve compiled a few tips for parents as they head to Charleston for this huge milestone celebration.

Have fun

Be sure you have your camera battery charged up. Bring extra memory cards/batteries.

Be prepared for rain with an umbrella and water repellant jacket or coat. Wear rain boots if you have them since it gets muddy with the rain.

Remember if it rains it WILL NOT dampen the spirits of the graduates (it poured for my son’s long gray line. We all had a blast.)

Have Fun

When taking photos have one person in your party take a photo from one end of Summerall Field to get a good shot of the grads the complete length of the field.

The graduates go from being thrilled to be graduating to realizing that after Saturday the friends that have become family will be spread throughout the country and the globe. It helps to understand that their emotions can be all over the place this week.

Enjoy yourself

Before graduation on Saturday ask your senior where they will be sitting in relationship to the front dais (stage). They line up in alpha order, not by company, for graduation.

Decide where you will meet after graduation BEFORE graduation. Some meet on the floor of the field house other prefer to meet up outside. Some want to get photos with their friends at a specific place. Having a short conversation ahead of time can expedite the meet up after graduation is over.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the parents of 2017 and hope to see many of you Friday and Saturday.

Graduation for the Class of 2015

Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation
Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation

I had the honor of attending the graduation of the Class of 2015 last weekend. A young man I’ve known since before his Matriculation Day, Sadarius Lucas, invited me to be there for his big day. I arrived early in the afternoon Thursday before the Saturday graduation. It was fun to see cadets and families in the bookstore and on campus getting ready for the big weekend.

Friday morning I took my time getting to campus but had the opportunity to watch as the newly commissioned officers in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were rendered their first salute. While standing outside Summerall Chapel I was thrilled to see my long time friend, Gwen and her extended family. I wrote about Gwen a while back. We went to the same high school in New Jersey and ran around with the same friend group. When Gwen’s oldest was a knob she found my name in the Citadel Family Association list of volunteer and emailed. We picked up right where we left off 30 years before. It is just one story of many of the friendships that have been renewed between the parents of cadets. I say it often, I never expected that I would end up with so many new friends because my son chose to attend The Citadel. In this case it was a true gift to reconnect with Gwen.

I had the opportunity to finally meet a few people in the administration that I had not met before. We were all outside the chapel at the same time. I was floored to find out they all were familiar with this blog and also that I administer Facebook groups for parents of cadets, but not as surprised as I would be the next day after graduation.

2016 SUmmerall Guards enter the parade fieldAs the afternoon went on the weather was looking pretty iffy. Rain was in the forecast. The Summerall Guards began their performance and got through the entire series before the rain began. I noticed that the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Bob McDonald was sitting next to President and Mrs. Rosa. I had met him briefly after a Town Hall meeting he held at the Atlanta VA in the fall. I went over to say hello. He continues to impress me with the work he is doing for our veterans. Right after he introduced me to his wife and his sister, who is the mother of a 2015 graduate, the rain began. Out of no where secret service men appeared with large black umbrellas. I’ve decided having “people” in the midst of a rain storm is a very nice perk.

The Class of 2015  form the Long Gray Line
The Class of 2015 form the Long Gray Line
Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.
Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

I scooted to my car to wait out the rain. Fortunately after a 30 minute delay the rain died down and the final parade of the year, the Long Gray Line began. If you are ever in Charleston on the Friday before graduation, you owe it to yourself to be on campus for this parade. The rising cadet officers take their command and then the senior cadets leave their companies and stand shoulder to shoulder the length of the parade field to form a long gray line. At the designated time they march forward to the families and friends at the other side of the field and away from the Corps of Cadets. The seniors are grinning ear to ear as they march forward. They turn around and as their companies pass them on their way off the field they give a final salute. It is a very moving experience just to watch. You can catch a glimpse of the long gray line parade and the other events of the weekend in this video produced by the school.

Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.
Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.

Saturday, the BIG day, began early. Seating is first come first served so we arrived at 7:30 am to secure decent seats close to the podium and not too high up. It turned out we were only three rows behind Cadet Lucas. The commencement speaker, Keller Kissam, did an outstanding job of delivering an inspirational address to the Class of 2015. Take the time to listen to his address. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Class of 2015 Dismissed!
Class of 2015 Dismissed!

A highlight of graduation at a military college or academy is the final announcement by the president, Class of 2015 Dismissed! last Saturday we were not disappointed. The white covers were high in the air and the graduates were busy hugging and shaking hands. They were all heading out to points around the globe. Some will meet while deployed others may run into each other while doing business. After tolerating quite a few photos Sadarius and his mom and friend were off to Columbia, SC because he had to get to a 3:00 job interview! He is such a gifted young man I expect to see wonderful things from him in the years to come.

My final gift came as I was walking to my car near Mark Clark Hall. A golf cart approached and driving it was Captain Geno Paluso, commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He stopped his cart and said hello to me by name. We only met once before, briefly last fall at a football game. He went on to thank me for the help I provide to parents of cadets. I was floored that he knew my name. I was shocked to find out he knew that I do any type of volunteer work with parents. He ended up giving me a ride to my car. I like to tell folks he was my chauffeur for the afternoon. Fortunately a friend was right there to take a photo.

My "chauffeur " for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.
My “chauffeur ” for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.

I made one last stop at the boat house and the dock before leaving campus to head to Savannah to see my oldest son. It was a wonderful weekend. I am now very busy screening the requests to join the Facebook group for parents of the Class of 2019. If you know someone with a student who will be a knob this fall, please pass along this link. And please ask them to email me for message me to confirm they are a parent of an incoming knob. My email address is in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.

I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.
I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.

The Citadel: Tips for Commencement Week 2014

2013 Long Gray Line
2013 Long Gray Line

It may only be January, but it is time to plan for graduation in May. It may even be a little late to start if you plan on renting a home for the week. Links to hotel information and other places to stay are in this previous post. It is always a good idea to call the area hotels directly and ask if they offer a special rate for Citadel families.

The schedule for the week is available on the school website under Commencement 2014. Many families come into town Wednesday or earlier and make a week of it. The seniors are out of the barracks before the other cadets so count on them staying with you. Graduates who are commissioning and/or who are Legacies should see this link for their special schedule.

As every other cadet event, the cadets have practice during the days for all the events from the commissioning ceremonies for military contract graduates, to the long grey line, legacies, and commencement. Their evenings are free.

A friend gave me a heads up about graduation week. While we all want to spend time with our soon to be graduate, it hits the seniors sometime leading up to graduation that they will no longer be able to see their buddies by walking out of their room in the barracks. They try to get as much time with their friends as possible before they spread across the globe in their various new roles.

Some families get together with others and host parties for companies. Others have small family gatherings. It is totally up to the individual families. I wrote about the little things i did graduation week to say thank you to various people on campus that I came to call friends.

If you are just getting started on your plans, a place to stay should be at the top of your list. Meal planning is next, especially if you will have a large group dining out. For help in finding facilities the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great resource. The area hotels have restaurants and meeting facilities, but they can also offer suggestions.

The attire for the baccalaureate ceremony, commissioning ceremony, the parade and garden party is listed as casual, but many families dress a little nicer than just casual. Of course you need to dress for the weather too. In 2011 it rained for the Friday afternoon long grey line parade. We ended up so soaked we skipped the reception at the President’s home.  In all the photos I’ve seen from other years the ladies wear light sun dresses, nice slacks and similar outfits. For the commissioning ceremony many wear jacket and tie as would match the attire the new officers will be wearing. Most people don’t have the time to change between events so they wear something comfortable, but nice for all the events.

You will want to plan on dinner Friday, and a late lunch Saturday after graduation. Dinner Saturday night is another opportunity to plan a gathering. The recent graduates may also have various parties they will want to visit. Like everything else over the four years, the events outside of the planned school functions, will vary with each graduate. A good resource, in addition to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, for restaurants is Zagat’s.

Gifts ideas for graduates are infinite. Some families give gifts to their cadet’s friends. Some knobs families give senior mentors gifts. It is totally up to the individual as to what you give or if you give a gift. A nice card is always appropriate. The Citadel Alumni Association also has some nice gifts available through their site.

The Citadel Bookstore sells diploma frames. Blazer buttons, and various jewelry items are also a nice gift.

The Citadel Alumni Association offers a steep discount on their Lifetime Memberships for junior and senior cadets. It makes a terrific graduation present. They host a special luncheon/presentation gathering Thursday afternoon. The new Lifetime members are presented with their plaque during the event.

A nice gift for a graduate to give their mother is the special miniature Citadel ring or pendant. It is pricey so they may need help from dad to purchase it for their mom.

I’ll include a few links below to previous posts that include other gift ideas and links.

The cadets spend four years waiting to graduate, then spend the rest of their lives trying to get back. Enjoy the week of events and take lots of photos!

If you would like to get together with other families in your cadets family and hire a photographer, I happen to be married to a very good one, Stanley Leary.  You can see some of his Citadel photos here. Of course there are others in the area too.

Other posts about graduation:

The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation Weekend

The Citadel Recognition Day and Graduation Gift Ideas

Finding Gifts for Your Citadel Cadet

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

Updated Hotel Information

Reflecting on the Long Gray Line


The Long Gray Line, 2011 photo by Stanley Leary

Time flies by. Two years ago I was gearing up for graduation weekend at The Citadel. My graduate is now a first lieutenant in the US Army and on his first deployment.

Two years ago I had no idea I would still be in regular contact with parents of current cadets. Once I posted the information for Citadel Parents to this blog I thought that would be it. Parents could find the information and I would move on to other activities. I was wrong.

What I didn’t expect were the emails and phone calls from Citadel parents. By the spring of 2012 I found it was easier to answer the questions of new parents by posting a Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016. A few friends who are now parents of graduates joined the page too. The group grew. It now boosts over 300 members. A group for the class of 2017 parents is now up and running.

Once your cadet gets through the first year at The Citadel you can volunteer with the Citadel Family Association. It is a great way to help other new families learn the ins and outs of having a cadet at The Military College of South Carolina. It is also a terrific way to make friends. This blog is just one way to learn about The Citadel experience. Any number of parents of current cadets can help answer questions as well. The Citadel Family Association is a great place to find supportive parents.

Next week I will travel to Charleston to be with a few of my Citadel Ya Ya sisters, and visit with a number of families with graduating cadets. In a way I feel like a distant aunt to some of these cadets. Little did I know in 2007 when my son matriculated I would become good friends with the parents of his fellow cadets. And I never would have guessed that I would reunite with an old high school friend from New Jersey.

One day four years ago I received an email asking if I was the same Dorie Griggs who went to Sparta High school. The note was from Gwen, a friend with whom I spent many a weekend with in high school. Who would have guessed that thirty years after leaving high school in New Jersey we would be reunited in South Carolina at The Citadel. Her oldest son is now a graduating senior and will begin his training in the US Army and Gwen will be a Blue Star mother.

Next week I will enjoy being a spectator at the annual rite of passage from cadet to graduate during the Long Gray Line parade. I’ll spend time catching up with good friends and meeting some of the parents I only know through Facebook.

The cycle begins again in June as the Atlanta Citadel Club hosts the annual cadet send off dinner for the incoming Class of 2017.